Injuries can be the bane to a fantasy owner’s existence, especially when they strike in bunches and take out key performers from your fantasy lineup, sometimes for extended periods. Remember how pleased you were with that draft where you grabbed Chris Davis, Jason Kipnis, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Trumbo, Aroldis Chapman, Kris Medlen and Wilson Ramos with your first seven picks? While that hypothetical draft would qualify as the ultimate nightmare, it unfortunately is entirely possible.
Injuries are a part of the game, and despite our attempts to mitigate as much risk as possible on draft day, we can’t predict who is more likely to take a comebacker to the face, an errant fastball to the wrist or shred a thumb ligament sliding headfirst into second base. All anyone can do is suck it up and try to weather the storm as best as possible. There is nothing worse than clicking on one of your various roster pages only to see those annoying little red crosses next to your players' names. But, injuries mean opportunities for other players to receive regular playing time or get that anticipated promotion and create buying opportunities for a struggling fantasy team.
We have spent the last two weeks speculating on when the Blue Jays would pull the trigger on prized rookie Marcus Stroman. Our initial inspection noted that with the injury prone arms ahead of him, it was only a matter of time before he got his shot. Sure enough, Brandon Morrow has sustained his yearly injury, this time to a tendon in his pitching hand, and looks like he could be headed for season-ending surgery. Stroman has been great at Triple-A to start the year, and while he will start out in the bullpen, the team will slide him into their rotation in short order. If you didn’t speculate early, the window to take a shot will close this week.
Last week also saw a couple of key contributors from the American League join the ranks of the injured. The White Sox lost another starting outfielder, as Adam Eaton strained his hamstring, and the Cleveland Indians lost All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis to the dreaded oblique injury. Eaton tweaked his left hamstring a couple weeks ago and missed five games. This time he pulled his right hammy, so the team decided to shut him down and let him further recover. It’s yet another blow for the injury-riddled White Sox, who already lost Avisail Garcia for the year and are waiting for ace Chris Sale, Conor Gillaspie, Jeff Keppinger and prospective closer Nate jones to return from injuries. While Eaton is sidelined, Jordan Danks will see regular playing time and Alejandro De Aza gets a little more time to try and get his game untracked. Moises Sierra was plucked off waivers and could be a short-term option for AL-only owners as he should get some platoon at bats in centerfield over the next two weeks.
The news on Kipnis is a little more serious, as oblique injuries can be extremely hard to recover from, meaning Kipnis could be sidelined anywhere from 3-5 weeks. The Tribe has a host of in-house options, which in this case isn’t necessarily great news for fantasy owners. Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Elliot Johnson and the newly promoted Jose Ramirez are all options for manager Terry Francona, and he will mix-and-match with Aviles and the speedy Ramirez getting the bulk of the playing time. AL-only owners can look to Ramirez and hope he sees enough playing time to deliver some stolen bases, as speed is the most developed part of his game at this point.
The biggest injury development in terms of newly promoted offensive talent occurred when struggling Angels third baseman David Freese cracked a bone in his finger over the weekend and landed on the disabled list. The team responded by promoting slugging prospect C.J. Cron to take his place on the roster. While Cron doesn’t play third base, he will get an extended look at DH thanks to the struggles of 41-year-old Raul Ibanez. Cron comes to the bigs with a power profile, and was hitting .319 with six home runs and 29 RBI at the time of his promotion. If he hits, he could also see some time at first base to help ensure Albert Pujols stays healthy all year. Cron doesn’t have the upside of an Oscar Taveras or Gregory Polanco, but if you are looking for pop, he is worth making an aggressive bid in hopes he can take this opportunity and run with it. He collected five hits in his first two starts and found himself hitting cleanup Monday night.
I will confess to taking the plunge on Cron in a few leagues this week, spending pretty big on him in a couple places where I had been living with Mike Moustakas as my CI. I’m not entirely sold that he will be worth what I spent, but sometimes you need to take a shot on upside, especially when it comes to power. Playing time could become an issue as the team gets other injured players back, and Cron isn’t really an option on defense anywhere but first base, which doesn’t help his cause long-term as long as Pujols remains healthy. Still, I am glad to add him, since he does profile as someone who can hit for a decent average to go along with some decent power. At least he allows me to finally get Moose out of my everyday lineup.Around the Rest of the AL
Hisashi Iwakuma finally made his return to the Seattle rotation from his finger strain and gave up four runs in just under seven innings. He should continue to round into form going forward.
As expected, the Mariners finally pulled the plug on Abraham Almonte, sending him back to Triple-A and calling James Jones back up. Jones is worth a flyer in AL-only leagues, since he should become the primary centerfielder. He brings speed to the table, so those in other formats in need of a speed boost could speculate as well. Michael Saunders also is worth adding again in all leagues, since he should take over as the new leadoff hitter while Almonte tries to work his way back to the Majors.
Ernesto Frieri took advantage of Joe Smith puking in the bullpen to lock down a save on Monday, his first since getting removed from the role a couple weeks ago. We mentioned last week that the Angels likely wanted to get Frieri back in the role, and Smith's stomach bug provided the opportunity. Smith was great as a replacement, but he has more value to the Angels in high-leverage situations. If you spent big on him last week, hang onto him since Frieri is far from safe and Smith could still be in the mix for saves for the time being.
Eric Hosmer finally hit his first home run of the season in San Diego, which fantasy owners hope is a sign of more to come. They will still have to wait for his first stolen base. Sticking in Kansas City, Lorenzo Cain returned from the disabled list and went 4-for-5 in his first game back. Now if only Billy Butler can just get his game untracked.
Brett Cecil is getting his shot at the top of the Toronto closer committee until Casey Janssen is ready to return. Janssen is currently on a rehab assignment and will need at least a few more appearances before being reinstated. Grab Cecil for some short-term saves if you are grinding.
Josh Hamilton should pick up a bat sometime later this week as he continues to rehab after thumb surgery. He is making nice progress in his recovery and there is optimism he will beat his original timetable to return to the lineup. Regardless, he still won’t be back until late-May at the earliest.
Eduardo Escobar is starting to take over shortstop duties from Pedro Florimon, and he added to his case by coming off the bench to hit a game-winning home run against the Indians in extra innings on Monday.